Reclaiming Our Youth


The Classified Ad reads “WANTED: Adults to participate in second chance at childhood experiment. Requirements: Willingness, compassion, commitment to betterment of self and society at large. Preferred:  Hindsight’s wisdom and a sense of enthusiasm. Contact: Any child in your immediate vicinity. Jaded killjoys need not apply.”

How many of us 1) knew what we wanted to ‘be when we grew up’, and 2) wish we could have figured it out sooner?   Or, 3) wish we could figure it out now? Here’s your chance – apply, preferably in person, to the advertisement listed above!

Youth that have and take the advantage of exploring work and their interests when they are young are a step ahead of their peers. Experimentation and real life experience helps them sort out and hone in on their true passions and aptitudes, better than any pen & paper (or computer generated) skills/interest inventory ever can.  This helps them chose college majors, training programs and first jobs that have a better chance of ‘sticking’, and being exciting and satisfying. Plus, they learn real skills, gain experience for a resume, and references for their future job goals.

But we adults – the gatekeepers, holders of the keys to these vital opportunities for youth – the very ones we once sought – have to be on board.

Matthew Fox reminds, and encourages us, in his book The Reinvention of Work: A New Vision of Livelihood in Our Time, “Adults could make their own lives richer by working with the young and seeing this commitment as a way of creating new work. It is time that adults saw their role in life as one of fashioning a gift for the young.”

Top candidates for the above position will have a strong desire to ‘grow up’ to become mentors, as well as keen skills in seeing potential, listening intently, asking the right questions and guiding young minds toward youth-chosen goals.

Don’t you wish you’d had someone standing beside you, quietly encouraging you, noticing your strengths and passions, and, with the benefit of their added years and experience, nudging you in the direction of a hands-on learning adventure?  Or, maybe you did, if you were lucky!  This is how you get a second chance at childhood – the catch is, of course, the second childhood is not yours, but another’s.  Your chance to do it better this time lies in your choice to mentor.

“A great many of the people who are doing serious work in the world are very overworked, and short of help.  If a person, young or not young, came to them and said, “I believe in the work you’re doing and want to help you do it in any and every way I can . . . I suspect that many of them would say, “Sure, come right ahead.” says John Holt, quoted in The Teenage Liberation Handbook by Grace Llewellyn.  Internships.  Apprenticeships.  Hanging around the shop, the office, tagging along on assignment.  Direct experience, whether in action with tasks or via osmosis by just ‘being around’, observing, inferring (how, after all, do we learn language?) is invaluable to the curious, questing youth in search of vocation and direction.  Real estate and investment mogul, educator and author Robert Kiyosaki repeatedly refers to the education he gained from his “rich dad”, a friend’s father who took it upon himself to begin training his son and Robert about the ins and outs of business and financial acumen when the boys were eight years old.

How can you begin?  Matthew Fox suggests, “The young want adventure, and they have a right to it – inner adventure, spiritual adventure, mind and heart and body adventure.  Adults ought to be at work providing such adventure, whether it be through theater or by challenging the young to climb mountains and roam the prairies, master mathematics or video production, or put out forest fires or repair car engines. . .  The young need and deserve to be challenged. . . and  . . to learn discipline; there is no substitute for it. . . Soaring . .  requires acknowledging limits, developing inner disciplines.”

We can encourage kids to begin now, where they are and with whatever they are interested in.  Grace Llewellyn says, “ . .  the question of good work is a question about your here and now, not just a speculation about your future.  In ten years, you may change your mind completely about everything, including what work you want.  If that happens, you can get the skills and knowledge you need thenYour task now is to use your time beautifully now.  Your life isn’t something that’s going to start happening when you’re twenty-one.  It’s happening today.”

This is actually true for seekers of all ages.  Start where you are. You’ll learn along the way.  Another place to start?  Your friends, family, neighbors, and their connections.  And of course, the internet.  Here’s a youth oriented program recommended in The Teenage Liberation Handbook

The advertisement above, by the way, is hiring any and all qualified candidates.  Are you one for the job?